In that last flight you took, the pilot, copilot, and flight attendants all knew exactly where they were headed before the wheels lifted off the runway. They had a destination in mind. They even knew roughly what time you’d land.
It’s the same with your life and business. If you don’t know where you’re going, you can’t predict where you’ll wind up. And you can’t set short-term goals until you have long-term goals in place. The day-to-day goals are designed to help you reach the long-term goals of your desired future.
What are Long-Term Goals?
Long-term goals are like a roadmap, outlining what you plan to achieve in the next year, five years, or up to 15 years. They require you to strategically plan the specific habits and actions you’ll need to implement to systematically work your way to the future you’ve imagined.
Now, obviously things can and do change in business and life from year-to-year. Don’t worry – you can always redirect your plans at any given point, but without long-term goals, you’re just wandering aimlessly.
How are They Different from Short-Term Goals?
Short-term goals are smaller targets you can generally reach in a year or less. Long-term goals may take several years or more to accomplish.
Short-term goals are stepping stones to help you reach your long-term goals. Always start with the end in mind. Always start with your long-term goals. Then back into what short-term actions are needed to get you there.
For example: “We want to reach millennials and double our market share with the 20-30 year old audience in five years.” That’s a long-term goal. That’s where you’re going.
Now break it down into smaller goals that will help you get there. What are the necessary steps to reach that goal? “We’re going to create an Instagram or TikTok account and post regular videos that show how effective our product is.” That’s a short-term goal.
Here’s another. “I want to be fluent in Spanish and one day live abroad in a Spanish-speaking country.” The short-term goals might be spending 30 min each day working on a Spanish course, reading 2-3 books in Spanish, or working with a Spanish tutor for six months.
How to Set Long-Term Goals
The best place to start with your long-term goals is to take a step back and dream. Where do you want to be in five to 10 years? Specifically, what do you want to BE, what do you want to DO and what do you want to HAVE when you look at your life a few years from now. We recommend creating a vision board to help you in the long-term goal dreaming phase. A vision board is a physical representation of your desires, dreams, and goals It’s usually a collage of words and pictures cut out of magazines or printed out from sites online. Vision boards help you imagine what the future could look like. It offers a clear picture of the changes you want to make and where you’re headed.
Once you have a vision board, make sure you identify the long-term goals associated with each item on the board. If your long-term goal is to be able to travel across Europe, what changes/actions can you make today to get you there? Do you need to start monthly deposits in a travel fund? Do you need to pick up a second job or side hustle to increase your income? Or maybe you want to retire from the position you currently have, and make lifestyle changes that will allow you to spend extended time abroad.
Sometimes tackling long-term goals can feel like trying to eat the proverbial elephant with a spoon. To increase the odds of successfully reaching your long-term goals, you need to break them down into manageable blocks. You may have heard of SMART goals. We recommend this framework too. Specifically, SMART stands for:
- Specific – Define your goal clearly. What you want to accomplish should be clearly understood by anyone who sees it.
- Measurable – Lay out the measurable details that will prove you’re making progress as you attack your goals.
- Attainable – Make sure you can reasonably accomplish your goals. And is achieving each goal worth the time, effort, and money it will take compared to your other priorities?
- Relevant – Why do you want to reach this goal? What is the specific purpose or outcome behind it? Make sure your goals fit with who you are and why you do what you do.
- Timely – Assigning a deadline for your goal will motivate you and keep you accountable, with smaller deadlines and checkpoints underneath. We all need deadlines to perform at our best. For a goal to really be real, it needs to have a realistic timeframe you’re committed to. Otherwise, it’s just a wish or loose hope without a plan.
Tracking Your Goals
Once you have your goals written down, decide how you will track or measure your progress. For long-term goals, this can be monthly or quarterly with check-in points underneath. This doesn’t mean you only think about your goal quarterly, however. You may have short-term goals that are weekly or monthly that line up with the goal to make sure there’s progress on the long-term goal as the year progresses.
So, how often should you check in on your progress? You can check in weekly, monthly, or even every three to six months. You don’t want to track it too frequently or you could get frustrated. Give yourself enough time to have actually made some progress. But you also don’t want to wait too long to evaluate your progress in case adjustments are needed.
The right length of time will show you if you’re making the progress you should be and motivate you to keep at it. And if you follow the “M” principle in the SMART formula, you’ll be able to measure exactly how far you’ve come in pursuit of your goal.
Examples of Long-Term Goals
Long-term goals can be personal or professional. Here are a few examples of both.
- Increase employee retention rate by 20% in two years.
- Offer five new products five years from now.
- Increase sales by 30% in three years.
- Open a third warehouse in an uncovered region with 100 employees during the next 10 years.
- Retire or over the running of the business by a certain age.
- Master a job-specific skill in two years.
- Get a second degree.
- Publish an article in a professional journal in the next two years.
- Get promoted to a senior position at work in five years.
- Gain a reputation as a thought leader in my industry by the end of the decade.
- Run two full-length marathons by [date].
- Adopt a child from another country.
- Be able to fund my children’s college funds.
- Read 100 books over the next two years.
- Learn to play the guitar and perform onstage.
- Move across the country to [city].
- Have enough savings to start my own business.
- Buy a house on the lake.
- Travel to 10 countries in 10 years.
You can set long-term goals for your relationships, family, health, career – the list goes on and on.
How to Stay Accountable to Your Long-Term Goals
OK, now for the hard part – staying accountable! To confirm you’re making steady progress, we strongly recommend inviting someone to serve as an accountability partner or, even better, hiring a coach. Keep visual reminders like your vision board in front of you to help keep you on track. And talk about your goals. Telling others about your goals makes it more likely that you’ll do what it takes to achieve them. Post your progress on social media. That creates a little healthy peer pressure, as well as some fans who will cheer you on when you win.
Reach Your Long-Term Goals Faster with a Coach
For help on creating and achieving your goals, consider partnering with a professional life or career coach from Southwestern Consulting.
At first, I was skeptical about coaching. My doubts quickly vanished when I realized how personal the Southwestern Coaching program is. I felt joy after each call with my coach, Andrus Albi, and I devoured each module as if it was the world’s greatest book. The investment in myself has been the best decision of my career.
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